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Russian mariners protect a convoy from pirates

Russian mariners protect a convoy from pirates 14.04.2011
Text: Gudok
Photo: Large ASW ship Admiral Vinogradov. navsource.ru
Keeping on securing civilian shipping in the Gulf of Aden, Russian large ASW ship Admiral Vinogradov completes the escort of another convoy under command of Capt 2 rank Ivan Kovalev.

According to Russian Navy's press service, the convoy escorted by Admiral Vinogradov includes Russian-flagged vessel Amderma with 29 Russian crewmen on board.

Russian task force led by Admiral Vinogradov has been keeping anti-piracy watch in the Gulf of Aden since Dec 2010 protecting commercial ships from pirate attacks.

Russian Navy secures national shipping off Somali coast and in the Gulf of Aden in accordance with presidential decree issued on Sept 3, 2008, reports Russian defense ministry.

Experience shows that distant-zone warships equipped with deck-based helicopters are the most reasonable assets for anti-piracy activities. Basic method used by Russian warships is escorting of commercial convoys along prescribed routes.

Russia's safety corridor is much longer than those of multinational task force and non-aligned states. None of merchant ships has been captured within Russian corridor, in contrast to joint force's zone where another anti-piracy method is used area patrols. Russian mariners have effectively repelled several assaults and arrested a number of pirates.

Since Dec 24, 2010 these tasks are being performed by large ASW ship Admiral Vinogradov which has already escorted 52 foreign-flagged vessels and 22 ships with Russian sailors on board. Russian Navy command plans to dispatch about 5 anti-piracy task units from Northern and Pacific fleets in 2011.

This is the second mission of Admiral Vinogradov in the Gulf of Aden; it has been lasting for five months now. The previous mission was a bit shorter. At that time Pacific Fleet (PF) servicemen had spent 4 months keeping watch in tropic waters.

In accordance with Navy command, presence of Russian warships in this region will be continued in the current year. During the anti-piracy watch off the Horn of Africa, PF warships have escorted 10 international convoys.

Russian defense ministry plans to form a special anti-piracy unit. Reportedly, the Navy will establish Distant Zone Command in the Indian Ocean in 2013. According to Navy Main HQ, Black Sea Fleet ships will form the basis of the new naval formation.

Soviet Navy's 5th Mediterranean and 8th Indian squadrons are prototypes for the new command. So, Russian warships will be stationed in the region on a permanent basis. Supposedly, in Syrian port Tartus which used to be a base for Soviet Mediterranean Squadron. At present, negotiations with Syria are in progress. The new squadron is planned to consist of three frigates, a refueling vessel and a sea-going salvage tug.

Experts of Sovkomflot shipping company say the piracy problem is heavily underestimated. According to the Russian shipowner, every year world economy loses somewhat $12 bln because of pirates' activities in the Gulf of Aden and near the Horn of Africa. Only in the first two months of 2011 Somali pirates had carried out 87 attacks, captured 13 vessels, and taken more than 200 hostages. In total, over 700 captive crewmembers are waiting for release now.

Today's piracy is a well-organized international business, experts say. This assumption has been proved by the fact that pirates receive precise information of a vessel's route and chase it; this could not be done without satellite systems, up-to-date equipment, and appropriate skills.

According to Rear Admiral Alexander Shtukaturov, early in 2011 number of captured ships and sailors was maximal 28 and 633 respectively. This is much related to extensive use of hijacked vessels as pirates' mother ships.

"Russian Navy command and leadership of international operations are aware of location and names of those mother ships. But this gives no advantage to anti-piracy actions. Whenever a combat vessel approaches a mother ship, pirates threaten to kill its crew. So, a commanding officer is forced to abandon any actions to protect civil crew and to attack pirates", explained Rear Admiral Alexander Shtukaturov.

Totally, in 2010 it was reported of 445 pirate attacks which are 10% more than in 2009. As a result, 53 vessels were captured, and 1 181 sailors were taken hostages. Eight crewmen were killed during pirate assaults.

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